Palm Beach are champions

Palm Beach Sharks are the 2014 NPL Queensland Champions after defeating Olympic FC 3-2 in the Grand Final at the Mallawa Complex on Friday night.

Olympic led first through Tim Smits until two Chris Lucas goals reversed the advantage at the break, before substitute Jack Boxell iced the game with a late third to seal the hosts' first championship.

There was plenty of action early in the decider as Brandon Cuminao denied Lucas early after losing control of a forward pass while Olympic midfielder Terry Hughes was forced from the pitch through injury.

The visitors responded to the setback in the best possible fashion, opening the scoring in the 8th minute as Shane Vitakangas' mishit clearance allowed Danny Byrne to tee up Smits for a side-footed finish.

Palm Beach levelled terms almost immediately, though, drawing level just a few minutes later when Troy Ruthven's ball over the top freed Lucas to race down the right channel and lift a classy finish over the advanced Cuminao.

More action ensued around the half hour mark as first Cuminao acrobatically palmed away Lucas' well-struck volley before Vitakangas did the same to Byrne, while just moments later the Olympic captain strode in for a one-on-one but scooped his finish well over.

Lucas made the vistior’s rue the miss, stealing in at the near post to head the Sharks in to a 2-1 lead in first half stoppage time.

While Kristian Rees volleyed over the crossbar, there were few openings at either end immediately after the restart until Matt Byrne was called upon for a crucial block on Jarrod Kyle.

Olympic had their biggest chance to get back into the match in the 73rd minute when Rees under-hit a back pass, gifting Rhys Meredith the chance to close in on goal but the substitute was unable to beat the well-positioned Vitakangas.

Sharks looked to have suffered an injury blow themselves when lively winger Dan Dragicevic limped off and was replaced by Boxell.

However, the hosts doubled their advantage late in regulation time – Boxell making good use of his fresh legs get on the end of a well-weighted cross, squeezing his header inside the upright.

The goal proved decisive as although Smits pulled a goal back from a rebound deep in stoppage time, Palm Beach secured a maiden NPL Queensland Grand Final win.

The win is the third trophy Sharks have won this season after clinching the NPL Queensland Premiership in the home-and-away season, as well as the pre-season Macron Cup in Redcliffe.

They will now represent NPL Queensland against Northern New South Wales club Weston Workers in the National Premier Leagues Finals Series next weekend, before continuing their Westfield FFA Cup campaign against South Springvale Tuesday week.

Match Details
Palm Beach Sharks 3 (Chris LUCAS 13'/45+2’, Jack BOXALL 85’)
Olympic FC 2 (Tim SMITS 9’/90+2’)

Image courtesy of Alberto Perez/Football Queensland